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The Internet vs estate agents

09 Apr 2014

While the Internet and online retail websites have become a continuously evolving fundamental part of life for many tech savvy consumers, there are elements of dealing with a real estate professional face-to-face that simply can’t be replaced.

The real estate industry has moved with the times and agencies have spent time and resources developing web technology.

This is according to Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, who says although the Internet age has brought about many changes in the way that real estate business is conducted, like the fact that more than 90 percent of home buyers use a property search portal as their initial step towards homeownership - a large majority of those consumers will still seek the professional services of a real estate agent during the property buying process.

“Consumers are confident that the Internet will help them narrow down their property search fairly quickly given the vast amount of information that they are able to access within a short period of time. Many home buyers appreciate that online resources have simplified the process of finding their perfect home. However, while home buyers are looking for information regarding property and searching for homes online, they will still consult with a real estate agent to supplement and refine their search.

“The prospect of buying property online has increased; however, estate agents are still much an essential part of the process. Online real estate search tools have not taken business away from agents, but have instead offered them another perform in which to better their service to their clients,” says Goslett.

He says most agents, if not all, have adapted to the shift in consumer behaviour with regard to the Internet and have become more involved with increasing their online presence and adding to the services that they provide to their clients. “The real estate industry has moved with the times and agencies have spent time and resources developing web technology. The majority of real estate agents have also invested in technology such as smartphones and tablets to ensure that they can keep in touch with their growing online databases.”

Despite consumers’ mixed opinions of real estate agents, the fact remains that they do provide an important service to the market and can bring a lot to the table. While online property buying is increasing in popularity, real estate agents are still responsible for the majority of property sales in this country. “There are just some things that should be left to the professionals and unless a private seller is an experienced realtor who manages some kind of property portfolio, it seems pointless to go at it alone,” says Goslett.

“From a seller’s perspective, an established estate agent with the necessary qualification will have the resources and experience required to make sure the property is sold for the best possible price within the shortest period of time. When it comes to buying a property, as one of the biggest financial decisions that most consumers will ever make in their lifetime, it would make perfect sense to seek out the expertise of a trained real estate agent to guide them through the process.”

According to Goslett, the legislated qualifications that estate agents are required to have, has changed the face of the industry and agents are now regarded as professionals more so than ever before. “With constant exposure to the property market and the property transaction process, real estate agents have a wealth of knowledge that they can provide to both the buyer and seller. Aside from extensive knowledge and access to various data and property tools that can assist in correctly determining a home’s fair market value, many estate agents also have strong relationships with bond originators, which can help the buyer in qualifying for finance,” he says.

The service that estate agents provide in marketing a property is also invaluable. There are a number of tasks that go into this, such as taking photos of the home for sale, listing them on websites, paying for the costs of advertising, arranging viewings and show days and managing offers. Aside from access to all legal requirements and documentation for the sale transaction, estate agents also have a network of contacts and sites that they access to source potential buyers.

“Due to the nature of property sales and the huge financial impact these transactions have on people’s lives, the right estate agent can add value and be a helpful professional guide to rely on,” says Goslett.

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